Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 remains one from the most lusted after Android smartphones ever, with months of rumors, leaks, hyperbole and more than one launch event. Interest in the phone in the lead up to launch was at least as high as for Apple’s iPhone 5S and iPhone 6.

Now that the Samsung Galaxy S 4 is finally on sale, just two simple questions remain. But also, has Samsung taken a big step forward over last year’s S3 or is this more an evolution of that handset.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

At first glance, you’d have to err towards evolution. The Samsung Galaxy S4 certainly is not a phone to show off with; not that it doesn’t look rather beautiful, but more because it’s almost unrecognizable from its predecessor unless you look up close. That means no bad thing in our opinion as it didn’t attract any unwanted attention on the train home, unlike an iPhone 5 just after its release.

The new handset appears on retaining the same white plastic finish, but look closer and you’ll see a beautiful diamond pattern beneath the gloss surface. It’s a nice touch, and one subtle enough to avoid accusations of unnecessary bling. It manages to avoid attracting fingerprints too, so you won’t need to polish it to keep it looking clean incessantly. The silver trim around some edges might look like metal, but it’s plastic as well.The screen fills the handset like we have never seen before

Despite having a removable rear cover, which has advantages we’ll discuss later, the Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t suffer overly as this practicality. The rear panel fits snug against the body with no flex either shift. When in place, the handset seems like a single piece of tech. It looks somewhat flimsy when removed, but we have taken it off many times without cracking or breaking it.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is among the best-looking plastic phones we have ever seen. It’s a decent evolution from the S3, ironing out plenty of the minor flaws that its predecessor had. These include a USB port so didn’t look very well cut out and a rear case that had quite a loose fit; with the S4; it feels that much more finished and as though more attention has done paid to the detail.

Having said that, it is a very conservative design. Purely from a look also feel perspective, we prefer the aluminum HTC One. The curved back and sharp corners make it look far more striking that the rather amorphous blob of the S4; plus HTC has squeezed in a couple of front-mounted speakers on the One, as we’ll explain later. However, as a lot of practical engineering, the S4 is only superior because it fits a noticeably larger display into such a sized handset. You simply can not get more screen than this in your pocket for the size or weight – all else heads into phablet area.

The S4 is fully designed from an ergonomic position of view too. The power button at the top like the HTC One is beautifully designed, doubles as an IR blaster and responds when you press it – once you’ve got the hang of where it is. The problem is its position; having pressed it with your forefinger, you can’t then reach the buttons below the screen with your thumb. The S4′s right-hand-side power button has a far more traditional and boring look, but at least you can use the handset one-handed without having to shift your grip constantly.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

That is the first smartphone to use an A.M.O.L.E.D. display with a Full HD resolution. Measuring 4.99 in across that gives it an on-paper pixels-per-inch figure of 441, up of 306 P.P.I. on the Galaxy S3. As always, it’s worth noting because the display uses a pentile arrangement of sub pixels – with two colors per pixel, rather than three – which means its actual resolution is less than similar L.C.D. screens.

Display

That is less of a problem on a Full HD display than it was previously. The incredibly high number of pixels-per-inch does the lack of refinement, usually apparent on the edges of text, practically unnoticeable. Furthermore, the incredible difference you get from an A.M.O.L.E.D. display more than makes up for any small perceivable loss of detail.

In practical use, there’s far less difference between this also the L.C.D. HTC One than their technology would suggest. The pentile pixel arrangement does not seem to noticeably make detail on the S4, while the contrast on the HTC One was also excellent. The colors on the S4 are a little richer at any given brightness, but then the HTC One is far brighter at its maximum setting, handy on sunny days – though run it that way all the time and your battery life will mean severely diminished.

Samsung’s controls are far better, including a brightness slider always presents on the notifications drop down menu. That also lets you tweak the car brightness settings, allowing you to have it a few steps brighter, or dimmer, than the variable default. By comparison, the HTC One makes you dig into the menus to adjust it and offers no such tweaking of the auto setting.

It is not a huge deal when using apps day to day, sending texts, or hammering out a quick email, but for browsing desktop website sites, playing games and watching video clips it’s a big plus.

The S4 may have larger, higher purpose screen than it is antecedent for enjoying such content but the audio from its speaker has not improved by the same degree. The speaker is but a rear-mounted, mono design plus so you have to position your hands to avoid muffling it accidentally carefully. Sound quality is not bad for such a speaker, but if you like to entertain yourself also friends with your handset, then the HTC One’s front stereo speakers are far superior.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

While we are talking audio, the HTC One (and Xperia Z) also have FM Radios, which is missing of the S4 for the first time during the series. A disappointment, and one that may affect some radio fans.

In the run-up to the launch of any exciting new smartphone or tablet, much remains made of the exact nature of the hardware contained and its processing power. For that Samsung Galaxy S4, the talk was of an eight-core CPU, though the reality turns out to be far more complicated than that.

Yes, there is an Samsung Galaxy S4(the GT-I9500) with a Samsung designed and produced Exynos eight-core CPU, but that consists of a four-core main CPU and a four-core low-power CPU, which the handset switches between in real-time to maximize performance and battery life. It’s an idea that is around a while; ARM calls it significant. LITTLE, but it’s good so see it finally implement at a quad-core flagship device.

But, and it is a big one, that eight-core Samsung Galaxy S4 is not the one you’ll be buying in the UK. Instead, when you turn about your shiny new S4, the first thing you’ll see is that it’s a GT-I9505 handset, which uses a Qualcomm designed quad-core chipset instead. That does because the other model doesn’t include 4G/LTE support, something that Samsung apparently feels is essential for a new handset launching in the UK.

Finding chinks, the S4’s general excellence is hard. The storage is measly, and the mono speaker and lack of FM radio may be a downer for some, but despite these, it’s still a lot about the phone for your money. We brought around, and the best deal we discussed was a free handset for £31 a month including unlimited minutes, texts and 500MB of mobile data.

According to research and experience, even those reasonable prices will drop steadily over the next six months. As the S3 this meant you could shop around for a phone late last year and find it as cheaper, if not less expensive, than many mid-range handsets that should have been far less expensive according to reason alone.

Even considering, so the S4 does a much like smartphone because about your money today. The lack of a significant. LITTLE processor is a shame, as it looks to be an excellent idea, but even without it, the S4 embodies that phrase rather nicely. The screen is bigger than that on the HTC One, and the battery is greater than the HTC One’s or the one in the Sony Xperia Z, yet the phone itself is slightly smaller than either. The only set, Samsung has squeezed more into less – and that’s why it wins it our Ultimate award.

Details

Primary displays size: 5.0 inch
Native Resolution: 1,920×1,080 C.C.D.
Effective megapixels: 13-megapixel
GPS: yes
Internal memory: 16384 MB
Memory card support: microSD
Memory card included: 0 MB
Operating wavelengths: G.S.M. 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1900/2100, L.T.E. 800/850/900/1800/2100/2600
Wireless data: G.P.R.S., E.D.G.E., H.S.D.P.A., L.T.E.
Size: 137x70x7.9 mm
Weight: 130g

Features

Operating system: Android 4.2.2
Microsoft Office Compatibility: N/A
FM Radio: no
Accessories: U.S.B. Charger, headphones
Talk time: 17 hours
Standby time: 15 days